Tinsel Talk: Xtraordinary Talent

Sarafian provides commentary on Season 3 of the X Factor and its top contestants.

This season of FOX’s X Factor signaled the departure of Robo-Britney and L.A. Reid. Thus, Simon Cowell welcomed two fresh faces onto the X-panel: Latina pop queen, Paulina Rubio, and former Destiny’s Child member, Kelly Rowland. Along with Demi Lovato, the trio makes up this year’s judges table. Although the dais is void of Britney Spears and her contorted facial expressions, the new panel seems to work well—the chemistry between the four judges is irresistible to the point where the performers are overshadowed by their hilarious banter. Rowland brings southern belle charm and sexual prowess, while Lovato totes the wit, sass, and sharp responses. Rubio—well, she’s the Paula Abdul of this season. Her kindness and airiness contribute to her lovability. Rounding off the group is host Mario Lopez. His former partner, Khloe Kardashian, also took her leave after last season. This proved to be a relatively wise decision, as her stage presence was, well, nonexistent.

This season’s performers stand out from those of past years. Each is relatively talented, unique, and likeable-so much so, where it’s nearly impossible to predict a winner. They all seem to have their strengths and specialties. So, let’s take a look at some of the contestants for Season 3.

Lillie McCloud (Kelly’s “Over 25’s”):  Lillie is the oldest of this year’s contestants–though you’d never be able to tell. This 54-year-old grandmother specializes in gospel and R&B, fusing them with hints of musical theater. She seems to be a front-runner, always yielding judges’ praise.

Artist Similar To: Whitney Houston

Strengths: Her dominating stage presence, her pristine vocals, and her adorable, sweet nature.

Weaknesses: Her lack of “sell” value. This season ferries one theme: “Where would you fit in in the market?” Lillie is talented, but how would she please today’s audiences?

Personal thoughts: Lillie is adorable and vocally gifted; however, one factor seems to irk me about Ms. McCloud—she’s had a music career! This career wasn’t simply a self-released album that flopped. No. She’s worked with the likes of Stevie Wonder, Kool & The Gang, and Michael Jackson! In addition, she charted Billboard’s dance and R&B charts in the mid-’80s! Personally, I think that’s a relatively unfair advantage.

Rion Paige (Demi’s Girls): Rion’s the little girl with the inspiring story and the powerhouse voice. Born with deformities in her joints, Rion has channeled her pain and struggle into music.

Artist Similar To: Carrie Underwood

Strengths: She’s absolutely inspiring. She’s incredibly humble, sweet, and loveable. In addition, her voice is tailored for country music—it’s loud, Southern, and hearty.

Weakness: It’s hard to find a weakness in this little girl. It’s certainly not any physical condition, that’s for sure. If one had to be scrounged up, it would have to be predictability.

Personal Thoughts: Rion is one of my favorite contestants. And no, it’s not out of sympathy—she recalls the likes of Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift by fusing country and mainstream pop. Her country version of “Born This Way” garnered a standing ovation by the judges’ panel—not a common feat by any means! The heart of viewer disdain in regards to Paige revolves around the “sympathy” card. Many fans feel like she’s breezing through the competition solely based on the judges’ and the audiences’ heartache. In actuality though, that’s not what’s carrying her (see this week’s performance of “Born This Way” if you don’t believe me).

Khaya Cohen (Demi’s Girls): This New York teenager might possibly be one of the most unique on the show. Her voice is eerily similar to the late Amy Winehouse’s, which has audience pondering the question: Is she the next Amy?

Artist Similar To: Amy Winehouse

Strengths: Khaya brings the ‘60s flare–that made Amy famous–to a more youthful audience. Her voice is incredible and vastly different from anything else on the show.

Weaknesses: Perhaps her one weakness is also one of her greatest strengths: her similarity to Winehouse. While many viewers love the striking correlations, some call it “copying” in terms of musical style.

Personal Thoughts: I don’t care if she sounds too much like Amy Winehouse or not—this girl’s got it. If she’s the second coming, that’s fine with me. Definitely my favorite female.

 

Tim Olstad (Paulina’s Boys): Tim’s first audition shocked the judges. He nervously trudged center stage, hands quivering in fright, and began belting Christina Perri’s “1000 Years.” His performance shocked the judges’ panel (who had insinuated that he seemed boring upon first glance). Tim has stayed strong in the competition by pristinely belting power ballads.

Artist Similar To:  Celine Dion

Strengths: Tim’s strength is his voice. He does not need flashy productions or backup dancers. He commands the stage with talent. Tim probably has one of the best voices in the competition. Not to mention, he’s g*****n adorable.

Weakness: Tim’s greatest weakness was once his stage fright and anxiety. However, he seems to have rapidly overcome those faults—no longer do we see his hands tremble in nervousness. His one weakness is something the judges constantly discuss: “Who is he and where will he fit in the market?” Simon has compared him to the likes of Josh Groban and Donny Osmond while Demi has essentially said that he’ll never impact mainstream radio. Will his more “RC radio” demeanor repel young voters?

Personal Thoughts: Donny Osmond? Really, Simon? I think Celine Dion would be a better comparison. Both have spectacular voices and rely on their talent to carry the performance. Spectacle isn’t needed. Nor is an over-produced dance track. The power ballad is their forte. Tim’s my favorite guy. He’s lovable, sweet, and immensely talented. Marry me, Mr. Olstad.

Alex & Sierra (Simon’s Groups): Alex and Sierra are a real-life couple that ooze adorableness and incredible talent. Their specialty is morphing songs from their original genre to a more folksy, indie sound (seriously, check out what they did to “Blurred Lines”).

Artist Similar To: She and Him

Strengths: Alex & Sierra will be in the finals, mark my word. They’re the fan favorite. Their ability to transform a song into something completely against its nature is their key to success. Not to mention, the fact that they are boyfriend and girlfriend, totally helping their on-stage chemistry.

Weakness: Their one weakness is a hypothetical business question: “What happens if they break up?” This possibility could sway voters who may deem their relationship and band as fleeting.

Personal Thoughts: People are obsessed with them. They’re going to win.
We shall see what happens. By the time this article is printed, one of these contestants may have already bid X Factor farewell. If one thing is to be said about the show, it’s that it truly encompasses a vast variety of different voices and styles, all while throwing in big-budget production value.

P.S. Rest in Peace, American Idol.

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